By Alexander Ramirez
WOODLAND, CA – After his preliminary here last week in Yolo County Superior Court, Ernesto Gonzalez will stand trial in early 2002 for murder, two counts of attempted murder, two assaults with semi-automatic firearm, shooting at occupied vehicle, possession of gun by a felon, possession of ammo by a felon, and numerous enhancements for serious priors and habitual criminal.
Multiple officers were called into court, starting with the testimony of Officer (first name not available) Albert, who said he responded to an incident on Oct. 26 around 6:30 p.m. on Hickory and Orchard Ways in West Sacramento.
After speaking to an individual who lives at an apartment on the street of the incident and was related to the deceased, Albert asked about a black SUV that has been seen around the area and was told that it belonged to Gonzalez, who he said had grown up in that area.
Officer Albert was also able to receive multiple surveillance videos from this individual that caught the incident.
According to different sources that Officer Albert received, one of the victims was found drunk and picked up on Hickory and Orchard Way and was taken to a neighbor’s house just down the street. The neighbor told Officer Albert that they heard a popping noise outside shortly after the drunk victim and their friend left their apartment.
Deputy Public Defender Andrea Pelochino asked the officer if the registration of the SUV was checked to see if it belonged to Gonzalez, but it was not.
After the cross-examination concluded, another officer, Detective (first name not available) Cameron, was brought to the court, and he went more into depth about the surveillance video that captured the incident, including what was done to identify the people in the video.
One of the people identified in the video, by a person familiar with the incident, was the accused, Gonzalez.
Also, in the video was another vehicle of interest other than the black SUV—a BMW sedan that belonged to the person picking up the drunk victim previously mentioned. There were also bright flashes coming from the hands of a person in red, which Det. Cameron said would usually be caused by a firearm.
From the video shown to the court and with the interpretations of Det. Cameron and Deputy District Attorney Matt De Moura, the man in red just outside of the laundromat doorway came down some stairs and possibly manipulated a weapon at their waistband. A witness characterization would point this man to being Gonzalez, as noted in earlier testimony.
Det. Cameron also checked Gonzalez’s DMV record once he found out he was a person of interest, and although he said he did not find any registered vehicles under the suspect’s name, there was a GMC registered under the name of Gonzalez’s partner or her father’s name, which was similar to the vehicle seen in the surveillance footage.
Gonzalez was actually arrested later during a traffic stop in a white Toyota.
At this point, the court audio became muffled and all that was heard was detective Cameron answering with “Yes,” repeatedly.
After a short recess and Pelochino’s cross-examination, Louis Eswai, another police officer, was called into court.
Eswai described his interaction with the victim who went to pick up his drunk friend from a neighbor’s house on Orchard Way and Hickory Way. From Eswai’s recollection, the victim described his friend leaving the residence and going down the street to talk to a friend before hearing approximately six gunshots, but he didn’t see anything. Apparently, the victim didn’t know his friend was involved until he drove down the street to see what happened.
From Pelochino’s cross-examination, when the victim went to check what happened, police were already tending to a man lying on the ground, who was identified as the friend he was supposed to pick up that night.
Also, there were other statements logged by Officer Eswai from the victim. Officer Eswai described receiving the second statement after he suspected the victim of lying and the final statement after they found bullet holes in the back of his car. Eswai said that after the third statement, the victim asked if the officer was going to call child protective services.
The last witness, Detective (first name not available) Twardosz, was also involved in the investigation of this incident.
Twardosz described his time talking to the victim about what happened on the night of the incident, and the victim said they saw his friend arguing with a subject before getting shot and the victim driving off.
The officer said the friend later came back to the scene to talk to police, and this is where he noticed that was the car was struck multiple times with bullets and told them that a six-year-old child was in the backseat of the car.
Pelochino clarified that this interaction between Twardosz and the victim wasn’t recorded, and the officer isn’t sure if the car was found with a child seat in the back seat.
After the acceptance or denial of other exhibits, DDA De Moura argued Gonzalez opened fire on the victim and his son after shooting the victim’s friend dead. It was caught on the surveillance video, and fulfills the elements of attempted murder charges and the assault with a semiautomatic firearm charge.
PD Pelochino argued the evidence doesn’t indicate when the bullet holes showed up on the car and there was no specific intent to kill the child in the car.
To close out the court session, Judge David Reed reviewed the video and saw the shooter shooting at both victims, and thus found sufficient evidence for the murder charge and its enhancement, as well as for the first attempted murder along with its enhancement.
However, the attempted murder of a minor was not found sufficient.
Gonzalez’ arraignment is Dec. 30 in Dept. 7 at 9 a.m., with the trial to start in January of 2022.